Juneteenth Is Now a Paid Holiday for Multnomah County Workers

Chair Deborah Kafoury said she made the decision to recognize the systemic oppression of black lives.

Protesters in Pioneer Courthouse Square on June 1. (Alex Wittwer)

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury this afternoon declared Juneteenth an annual paid holiday for all county employees.

Kafoury said she made the decision to recognize the systemic oppression of black lives.

"Observing the day of Black liberation honors the historic and current struggle, acknowledges the strength of our Black neighbors, friends and family, and reminds us of the hard and necessary work we must continue to dismantle systems of oppression," she wrote in her statement.

The June 19 holiday will now be a paid day off for county workers, alongside Independence Day, Memorial Day and Presidents Day. The first observance will fall next Friday.

On June 19, 1865, the westernmost slave state of Texas received news of the abolition of slavery, two years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in all rebel states. ("Juneteenth" is a portmanteau of June and 19th.)

Kafoury acknowledged a paid holiday is a minor step, but said it's a necessary one. She encouraged county staff not just to celebrate but also educate themselves on the "unique and difficult experiences of black employees." She called her staff to support the work of black artists and business owners as well as honor their black colleagues' achievements.

Multnomah County becomes the second Portland-area institution to declare Juneteenth a paid holiday this year, in the midst of a national uprising against police violence against black people. On Thursday, Nike said its workers would get Juneteenth off.

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